Tag Archive for Egypt

Writing the Canon: Notes on Art Education in Egypt

Writing the Canon: Notes on Art Education by Omar Kholeif

There is a particular aloofness among artists working in the Middle East and North Africa toward the North American and Western European cultural brokers who seek to engage them. A natural assumption is that this is due to a postcolonial paranoia. This is no surprise, especially as the reactive politics of the post-9/11 cultural spheres (not to mention the Arab uprisings that sparked after January 2011) have undeniably sought to turn many contemporary artists’ works into instruments of a neoliberal agenda. Artists have seen their output culled into exhibitions and projects that seek to address prescriptive sociopolitical agendas, often prioritizing ethnic or political categorization over formal, conceptual, or aesthetic art historical concerns.

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Save the Date: Subversion

PREVIEW: 13th April 2012

A unique group show of new and recent contemporary art that explores and rethinks modern Arab identity.

Curated by Omar Kholeif

Subversion features work from eleven emerging and established artists who use autobiographical narratives amalgamated with fiction, references to popular culture and subversive parody to express the dichotomies they face as they perform multiple roles in a society which is frequently represented and (mis) represented–contorted and mediated to the outside world.

Rather than conforming, the artists approach the various social masks they are expected to wear with a sense of humour – making reference to the duplicitous performances of their everyday lives.

Spanning an array of techniques including installation, video, photography and sculpture, the work illustrates fragments of the distorted imagination that often preoccupies the Arab world.

Highlights include emerging Gaza artists and filmmakers Tarzan and Arab, presenting their award-winning Gazawood project (2010), including short film Colourful Journey and a series of striking cinema poster pastiches of imaginary movies from different genres. Originating from a region that has not had a functioning cinema since the 1980s and heavily relies on satellite TV and illegal DVD copies, the works strongly reflect the twins’ interest in and passion for film.

In A Space Exodus (2009), Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour adapts a segment of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, providing it with new, Middle Eastern context by positing the idea of the first Palestinian in space. Originally developed as part of the A Space Exodus installation, Subversion will also feature Sansour’s Palestinauts (2010) and three preliminary sketches for the Nation Estate project, a sci-fi photo series conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for nationhood at the UN.

For more info, please visit here.

New Modernities. Addendum to Arab Agendas

I just published a text in AM called Arab Agendas. Looking at this now, I realise that the one thing I didn’t have time to address in the feature is technology and its relationship to the visual agenda.

It feels banal to spell out so bluntly, but technological interfaces have shifted the manner in which we interact. To reference ‘Arab Agendas’ (AM 353), it seems that no example is better than the case of the Egyptian revolutionary dissidence of 2011. The story of how Twitter and Facebook were used as rallying platforms has been expounded upon in considerable detail by various news outlets. A fascination here was undeniably how such a prolific use of technology could manifest, especially in a developing country. This brings us to Giles Deleuze’s assertions of technology being a socialising force. In the case of the Egyptian revolution, this socialisation, also led to a heightened case of audience/participant appropriation. Take for example, the assassination of the media artist, Ahmed Basiony, who was shot by a sniper with a bullet to the head on the 28th of January 2011, whilst protesting in Tahrir Square.

Judith Barry:…Cairo stories

Judith Barry interviewed by Omar Kholeif

Pioneering video artist Judith Barry has spent the past decade working on the …Cairo stories project, in which Cairene women recount tales of their lives and experiences. Here, Barry discusses the changing perception of Americans in Egypt, the problems of representation and the difficulty of filming in the midst of a revolution.

‘During breaks in shooting we were glued to Al Jazeera on the computer – at the time not on TV channels in New York. You can imagine the mood on the set: elation mixed with excitement, and also at times a great deal of fear. We wrapped two days after President Mubarak stepped down.’

Read the whole interview in the new issue of Art Monthly